Rediscovering the Beast of Burden

A quick look at this endangered animal is enough to convince us that even in this age of highly mechanized farming, the carabao still has a lot to offer in terms of business opportunities.

By: Henry D. Tacio


The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has listed tamaraw under Appendix I, which means that “ the trade of species of subspecies” of the animal is “strictly prohibited” except for educational, scientific or research and study puposes.

After the tamaraw, what Philippine animal is most likely to make it to the CITES list? The carabao, that’s what. The Filipino’s beast of burden, forced out from the farm by mechanized farming, is now being pushed to extinction.

The carabao population has steadily dropped since 1998. Statistics compiled by the Laguna-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) showed that there were 2.95 million of carabaos in the country in 1988. this dwindled to 2.48 million by 1992. The trend is continuing even today. “Unless we do something now, we might wake up one day an agricultural country without a carabao to speak of,” warns a farming expert.

The Philippine carabao is just one of the many breeds of the water buffalo, sometimes known as an “Asian animal” since region is home to some 95% of the world’s stock. The buffalo was first domesticated about 4,500 years ago, inn china or the Indus Valley – perhaps at the same time – and a “buffalo culture” spread gradually throughout Asia.

There are two types of water buffaloes: the river and the swamp types. The river type is exemplified by the Indian and sub-continent breeds. It is considered under the dairy category because it possesses high genetic capacity for milk production.

On the other hand, the swamp type- to which the Philippine carabao belongs- is distinguished by its preference for swamps or marshlands. This type of buffalo is primarily utilized for farm work. “About 98% of the total available agricultural power in Asia is derived from animals-mainly from the water buffalo,” noted Dr. Abercio V. Rotor, ane of the country’s carabao experts.

In the Philippines, the carabao is put to continuous work from the age of four years up to 15 years or beyond. Some studies have shown that three females can perform the work of two male carabaos. As a drft animal, the carabao is most remarkable. It pulls plows, harrows, and carts with loads of several tons, forging through mud up to belly.

There’s more to water buffalo than just a draft animal. W. Ross Cockrill, author of the Husbandry and Health of the Domestic Buffalo, said that in Brazil, buffaloes are credited for almost everything good. 

Cockrill narrated the story of an Amazonian cowboy, well into his 70s, who had 20 children, ranging from middle-aged men and women to babes in arms. Despite a vigorous life, the aging gentlemen looked the picture of health. Asked how he did it, he replied: “

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